Last Updated on: 22nd August 2021, 01:00 am
You know I’m just obsessed with exploring London’s historic sites. From the Tower of London to Westminster Abbey, the city has so many important places to explore! I asked Annisa Hasan, writes about exploring London, to share with us the best things to do in London for history lovers so you can get to exploring!
For more information about exploring this historic city, check out this London travel guide as well as my archives on English history.
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A Brief History of England
Before we delve into the best London historical sites, we need to first learn about the history of England and how the historical sites developed into London’s most visited attractions.
One important aspect of England’s history is British monarchy which takes on official, ceremonial, diplomatic, and representational duties to this day.
To sum up a very long period of history in just a few highlights: we fought against the Vikings in the 9th century, won and Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Wessex became the dominant kingdom. Then, in the 11th century, William the Conqueror changed the way England behaved politically and socially.
Later in the 13th Century, Edward Longshanks dominated the monarchy during the conquest of Wales. He gained French territory in the 13th Century but fell apart since Parliament came into power.
A Quick of England’s Architectural Periods
Four architecture styles you will encounter over and over during your time in Lond are the Victorian (1837 – 1901), Tudor (between 1483 – 1603), Georgian (1714 – 1830), and Roman (117 AD). The names were given after either the ruling monarch or the occupying force.
The Victorian era was the period when Queen Victoria ruled England. The Georgian era was the period when the Hanover Kings Goerge I, II, III, and IV ruled England. The Tudor period included the reign of The House of Tudor where King Henry VII was the first monarch. The Elizabethan period followed when Elizabeth I reigned until 1603.
The Best London Historical Sites
So, without further ado, here are the best London Historical Sites you need to see.
The Tower of London
The Tower of London should be the first thing on your bucket list. When people think of the Tower of London, they think of the crowns and jewels stored here, but it’s more than that. The Tower of London represents over one thousand years of history!
Selected as part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Tower of London has had a massive influence on Tudor history and now it is one of the main symbols of royalty. While the Tower of London was built in 1066 as part of the Norman Conquest of England, the White Tower was built in 1078 by William the Conqueror and it’s the strongest fortress in the military at the time.
Beginning in the 11th century, the stone structures have had a massive influence on Norman military architecture. The rest of the grounds were built around the White Tower to defend against its opponents until the 16th Century. The Tower of London was built purposely near the River Thames and is thought to be the gateway to the City of London.
England is notorious for its string of kings, queens, princes, princesses, peasants, and prisoners. It is what shapes the modern family today. Between them, there has been bloody murder, torture at the towers and chambers as well as greed. Tower of London has it all rolled into one.
Join the Wardour Tour (included with your entry ticket, although you may have to wait for a time slot). The Wardour Tour, with the humorous British Beefeater (the bodyguards and Royal bodyguards for the Queen), will guide you to different parts of the Tower and you will hear stories of prisoners locked in the towers and executed.
You will also hear stories about the kings and queens that lived and beheaded there too. The Wardour Tour lasts around 50 minutes, after, you can roam around the Tower freely as you please. Highlights of the tour, not limited to, include meeting the ravens, the Crown Jewels, the menagerie, and many more.
Spare at least 2 hours here. Nearby attractions include Tower Bridge, The Shard (the tallest building in Europe), the River Thames, Borough Market, and the Southbank area.
Located next to the Tower of London, Tower Bridge is a suspension and a bascule bridge, and it’s one of the major icons of London. Its two towers consist of 70,000 tons of concrete sunk in the waterbed. An amazing ten thousand tons of steel was also used in the making of the walkway.
Built from 1886-1894 during the reign of Queen Victoria, Tower Bridge may be confused with London Bridge. If you love engineering, go on a 45-minute Tower Bridge Exhibition. Although it can be busy and there’s not a lot of space to walk around in, you’ll learn about how the bridge was raised, the many people that died making the bridge, and the tools used.
You’ll also see the Engine Room museum where they store several types of machinery used in making the bridge. This is a great London Instagram spot since you get to see the city overlooking the River Thames. Dare to walk on the glass floor above the water. You’ll be given a sticker to say, “You’ve done it!”
The purpose of the Tower Bridge was to solve a problem with crossing the river south of London Bridge. It is also to give access to large ships and boats that were critical to England’s economy during the nineteenth century. The River Thames was a major point of imports and exports distributing goods in and around London during this time.
We rarely see large ships crossing the bridge now as technology and distribution methods have evolved. It’s recommended to visit Tower Bridge at night as it is illuminated in the dark. The experience is amazing. Other times visit Tower Bridge is on a Sunday morning. It can be spookily quiet and great for snapping pictures without other tourists in them.
The Cutty Sark
The Cutty Sark Ship is a famous clipper ship located in Greenwich, South East London overlooking the River Thames, Greenwich Park, and Greenwich Market. It is was known as the fastest ship during its sailing days.
The Cutty Sark took its name from a witch called Nannie (nicknamed Cutty Sark) from the Robert Burn’s poem Tam O’Shanter. It has now been turned into a museum for tourists and locals to visit.
Its earlier purpose was to import tea from China, but later it worked in Australia to import wool. You’ll learn about all of this in the self-guided tour.
After the development of steam engines, a Portuguese company bought the Cutty Sark and renamed it Ferreira. It continued to operate as a cargo ship until 1922 when it turned into a training ship by Wilfred Dowman.
On the 21st of May 2007, the Cutty Sark caught fire during some renovation work. Luckily up to ninety percent of the original ship remained intact.
During your tour, you will notice that it’s a lot bigger inside than its exterior might suggest. You will see the kitchen they used with replicas of cutleries, the room where they held meetings, and the intricate exterior designs including “Neptune’s wooden angels” at the end of the ship.
You’ll also discover s small office room used by the Master and information on tea and wool imported from China and Australia. Other areas worth visiting are the lower cargo area where they stored teas and entrance to the master’s cabin. Spend at least one hour here.
Hampton Court Palace
Like the Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace has Tudor influences in its architectural design. Situated in Richmond-upon-Thames, South East London, you can either take a self-guided tour or a private tour with Siobhan Clarke, who I was fortunate to have during my time of visit.
She had extensive knowledge of Tudor history and wore a medieval costume suited from the Tudor period. She was also very funny and we were made to feel as if we stepped back in time.
Hampton Court was built in 1515 by Thomas Wolsey, the Archbishop of York and it was the residence of King Henry VIII. Thomas Wolsey had an idea to create a Renaissance palace that involves constructing straight symmetrical lines in grand rooms. This was due to the influence of Paolo Cortese’s De Cardinalatu; a manual with advice on structuring extravagant rooms.
The idea was to shift from the medieval Tudor period to the Italian Renaissance. The first thing you notice as you enter the Palace is the Hampton Court astronomical clock. This shows the time of day, the different stages of the moon, the month, the date, and the year.
The best part of my tour was seeing the Great Hall where Henry VIII would dine. I loved the hammer-beam roof made of timber and the many oil paintings on both sides of the wall depicting medieval times. Again, I felt as if I stepped back in time and I imagined the sounds of the clinking of cutleries and chattering of people talking. As people stepped into the Great Hall, they spoke quietly but it echoed around throughout the room.
Another area worth visiting is the Queen’s State Apartments where you’ll see Mary II’s red four-poster bed.
I also spent time in the 750-acre Palace garden and the oldest puzzle maze (included in the admissions ticket). Although they said it takes 20 minutes to reach the center, I had a great time with friends trying to find each other that we spent more than an hour there. This is a great place for a day out with the kids, too!
Spend around three hours here if you want to get the most out of Hampton Court Palace.
St. Paul’s Cathedral
Built by Christopher Wren in 1666, St. Paul’s Cathedral survived the Great Fire of London. It’s influenced by English Baroque Style, a theatrical architecture style from Italy that spread throughout Europe during the Stuart period. St. Paul’s Cathedral is the principal church in the Diocese of London serving the Church of England, in the Province of Canterbury.
There are many similarities in its designs with the equally (or more) famous Westminster Abbey, but it still has its quirks. I managed to go up the hundreds of stone spiral steps. It can get tiring if you’re not fit enough. Once you reach the top, you can see a fabulous view of London!
Winston Churchill’s funeral, as well as Prince Charles’ and Princess Diana’s wedding, were held here, so, it has been a part of many important national occasions.
As I stepped inside the cathedral, the first thing I noticed was the high vaulted ceilings. Its arch-shaped ceiling uses a mix of white and gold colors with several intricate golden flower pendants. There were various medieval paintings scattered around the top as well. Take notice of effigy tombs of important people from medieval times.
The great thing about St. Paul’s Cathedral is its location. Cross the Millennium Bridge over the River Thames and you’ll end up in Southbank. You’ll see the free Tate Modern gallery, Shakespeare’s Globe, several cafes, restaurants and pubs, the London Eye, Sea Life London Aquarium, the London Dungeon, and a few minutes’ walk to Borough Market.
If you are on a tight budget, you can visit the Cathedral for free at a 5 pm mass or Sundays (which I didn’t know about until someone pointed it out to me).
Spend around one and a half hours here.
Buckingham Palace is one of the top ten attractions to visit in London. Every summer, book a time to visit the lavish State Rooms and learn about the history of the royal family and the many Queens that ruled England, including Queen Elizabeth II and Queen Victoria.
At the end of the tour, you can visit the spacious Palace garden and relax in the open air. You’ll see a huge lake with swans and ducks as you exit the Palace.
During your tour, each room you see is quite small, considering how large Buckingham Palace is. Queen Victoria had many meetings and dinner parties involving many guests, and this made it difficult to put everyone in one room.
Houses of Parliament
Also knows as the Palace of Westminster and Big Ben, the Parliament has many facets to its story, from the architecture, the many rooms it contains, the purpose it serves, and its important place in history.
You could easily pen a 20,000-word essay on the Houses of Parliament since there are so many things to talk about. Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament lie in the heart of the City of Westminster. It’s located on Westminster Bridge overlooking the River Thames and Westminster Abbey.
It is here that the House of Commons and the House of Lords get together to debate current events in the House of Parliament. Architect Charles Barry had an idea of redesigning the Palace into the Gothic Revival style, influenced by the English Perpendicular Gothic style of the 14th-16th century which uses stained glass, arches, and pointed vaults to produce an air of grandeur.
There are many tours here, and, even better, many of them are free. The House of Commons tour takes 40 minutes, though you will probably want to stay here longer. You can watch the Lords of Chamber at work talking about general government policies and drafting laws. Other tours involve watching debates and committees in other sections of the Houses.
Westminster Abbey is situated next to Big Ben. Once you finish touring the Houses of Parliament, it makes sense to pop over for a visit to Westminster Abbey. It’s not free to enter the Abbey because they’re independent and receive no funding from the church. To keep it open, it relies on visitors’ donations. Westminster Abbey is toured by more than one million visitors each year and is one of the top ten visitor attractions in London.
As you enter the Abbey, you’ll notice the Gothic style architecture all around you. Westminster Abbey has held many national events, mainly funerals and wedding ceremonies. You will see effigies of many British kings, queens, princes, and princesses including King Edward the Confessor, Mary I, and Elizabeth I.
Scientists, poets, and writers buried here include Charles Darwin, Stephen Hawking, William Shakespeare, and Jane Austen,
Other items here include the oldest Coronation chair, the Cloisters where monks meditate, the choir where you can join services, and the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior. Expect to spend at least an hour here.
Located above the Bank tube station, Mansion House is situated in the center of the city. The official citizen of the Lord Mayor of London, it was originally made to be an 8 horse stable, though it was never utilized for that purpose.
Mansion House was built in 1846 by architect James Bunning. There are many items here that date back to the 18th and early 19th centuries, including the benches and Hall Keeper’s Chair.
The Salon holds state banquets between the Mayor of London and his peers, while the Drawing Room’s 19th-century architecture stuns. The several large red flower-patterned carpets with its red curtains and grand fireplace make the room extra grand.
The Long Parlour is used for business meetings. Another highlight is the Egyptian Hall, which is influenced by Roman architecture, although there’s no relation to Egypt. The Old Ballroom consists of musical instrument designs and like The Long Parlour, it’s also currently used for meetings.
Big Ben is the nickname for the Great Bell inside the tower and is one of the most important landmarks in London (and one of the most Instagrammed spots in the city). The tower is called both the Clock Tower and the Elizabeth Tower, but now they are indistinguishable from Big Ben.
The tower is not original to the building. The Houses of Parliament were burned in a fire in 1834, and during the restorations, by John Warner & Sons it was decided that a clock would be added. The bell rang out for the first time on May 31, 1859.
Spend at least one hour admiring the Tower and visit Big Ben at night where it illuminates along the River Thames.
Around Big Ben, you will often see political demonstrations and police protecting the Houses of Parliament. You’re more than welcome to join. However, make sure to keep in mind some basic London safety tips so you are prepared for your trip!
The Charter House
The Charter House has been around since the 14th Century serving as a monastery, almshouse, and a boys school. The best thing about the Charter House is that visiting the museum, chapel, and the shop is free! You can also book tours from one of their sites.
Make sure to see the Great Hall. Like many British historical sites, I felt I stepped back in time to the 14th century, imagining having a life as a servant or housekeeper here. The architecture of the Great Hall has dark wooden walls with an arch-shaped ceiling that is decorated with intricate designs. Several tables and chairs are placed in the Great Hall for meals and the large window gives the room its brightness.
During your visit, you’ll be able to see the tomb of Thomas Sutton, an English civil servant and the founder of Charter House. The tomb was surrounded by a tall black and gold iron fence and on top of his tomb, you’ll see several statues of men living during his time as well as a large red and gold emblem.
Clarence House was built by John Nash in 1825 for Prince William Henry, the Duke of Clarence. Currently, it is the home of Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles. Prince William Henry died in 1837 and since then, several royals have resided here including his sister Princess Augusta Victoria, the Duchess of Kent, Queen Victoria’s mother. Queen Elizabeth II lived here during the early years of her marriage to Prince Philip.
The architecture is from the Victorian period, however, there have been many renovations and projects here throughout the years.
When you have a chance to visit St. James’ Palace and St. James’ Park, head over to Clarence House. Prince Charles and Camilla might not be there, but you can take advantage of guided tours starting from the garden and make your way into Clarence House. One of the highlights is visiting the “Queen Mother’s Birthday Gate.”
Other highlights include the Lancaster Room used for receptions for Prince Charles and Camilla’s guests. The Morning Room is used to entertain guests and official portraits. Prince George’s Christening and Queen Elizabeth II’s 65thanniversary photos were taken in this room.
The Library consists of many paintings of the Royal family including the Queen and his grandmother, and the Dining Room consists of china, silverware, and crystal glasses for formal dinners. The last room you need to make sure to see is the Garden Room which consists of Prince Charles’ collection of souvenirs from his extensive travels.
St. James’ Palace
St. James’ Palace was built by King Henry VIII between 1531 and 1536, during the Tudor period. There have been many smaller members of the royal family that have lived here. Currently, Princess Beatrice of York and Princess Alexandra live there.
Initially, St. James’ Palace was a secondary resident of Henry VIII. It was a great place to get away from his stressful duties. When he died, he passed St. James’ Palace down to his children.
During the seventeenth century, the Stuarts made their mark on the palace. Charles I gave the palace to his wife’s mother Maria de Medici. However, not a lot of people liked Maria de Medici, so she retreated to France. Later, after Charles I was overthrown, and Olivier Cromwell took over the palace.
During the 18th century, the House of Hanover took over the palace and housed Duchess of Kendal and Countess of Suffolk, the two mistresses of George I and George II.
Right now, the palace is still used for business purposes. Many ambassadors and high commissioners to the United Kingdom that have been approved by the Court of St. James’ have lived here since the Tudor period.
Emery Walker’s House
The garden of Sir Emery Walker’s house is full of green bushes in different sizes and colors. It feels as if you are in the Garden of Eden, with wisteria flowers growing around the exterior back of the house. In the front, you can see the house is part of a row of Victorian-style houses.
Situated in Hammersmith, Sir Emery Walker was an English engraver, printer, and photographer during the late 19th Century. He was an expert in 16th-century letterings and worked with William Morris, a British textiles designer, to create Kelmscott Press, specializing in stained windows and tapestry panels.
Walker then set up Doves Press. Consequently, Walker was a major influence on various artists in the production of private presses. His influences can be seen in the design of letters, layout, and printing.
Other notable English entrepreneurs that have lived there, including Philip James de Leutherbourg, a landscaper and painter, and TJ Cobden-Sanderson, an artist and bookbinder.
You can take a guided tour around his house and explore the Dining Room, the Drawing Room, the Bedroom, the Garden, and the Conservatory. The tour is a very intimate look at the owner’s life and times compared to other major historical sites.
The Fourth Plinth
Although not a lot of people take time to notice the Fourth Plinth, it still should not be missed and is one of London’s most funniest historical sites. Situated in the four sides of Trafalgar Square, The Fourth Plinth changes every so often. If you love art and design, then it’s worth taking photos in front of what’s standing there at the current moment.
Previous plinths include:
- A replica of Naval Officer Sir Horatia Nelson’s Ship in a bottle, HMS Victory (24 May 2010 – January 2012).
- A tall bronze sculpture of a boy on a rocking horse to commemorate kings and military leaders (23 February 2012 – April 2013).
- A gigantic blue cockerel sculpture to symbolize “regeneration, strength and awakening” (25 July 2013 – 17 February 2015).
- A skeletal horse – a tribute to Scottish economist Adam Smith and English painter George Stubbs (5 March 2016 – 6 September 2016).
What will you find during your visit?
Escott (William Morris Society)
William Morris was a textiles designer who worked with Sir Emery Walker (see Emery Walker’s description). He was involved in the British Arts and Crafts Movement and changed the way we produce textiles and methods of production.
His house is located in Hammersmith, not far from Sir Emery Walker. It was built in the Georgian period and you can visit his residence and learn about his work. The Georgian style architecture includes a grand exterior and is made to look wealthy from a distance. Georgian houses usually have a spacious front garden compared to Victorian houses.
The William Morris Society holds talks, events, exhibitions, and visits here throughout the year, and you can visit the museum in the basement and Coach House at Kelmscott House.
Lambeth Palace has been the residence of the many Archbishop of Canterbury for hundreds of years. Located in the Southbank of the River Thames, Lambeth Palace owns many collections of records of the Church of England, and it was built during the Tudor period.
When you visit Lambeth Palace, take note of the Garden Museum, where you’ll learn about the history, art, and garden design. You’ll also see a wide variety of garden tools and the two new gardens, The Sackler Garden and the Museum’s front garden.
The early English Chapel is built in the Gothic English style. Its Lollard’s Tower held Protestant religious prisoners.
Another interesting area in Lambeth Palace is Morton’s Tower. Morton’s Tower is the main entrance to the palace built in 1490 by Cardinal John Morton. Currently, gatekeepers reside in the tower to protect the palace.
The Crypt Chapel used to hold wine and beer until World War II and was later converted into a chapel. The best part of the chapel is the stone arch and the original brickwork is still intact on the ceiling.
The Chapel is the most colorful section of Lambeth Palace. You’d feel grand just standing in the middle of the chapel. The colorful stained glasses depicting symbols and medieval stories between the 15thCentury, the red and yellow paintings of Jesus Christ on the ceiling, and the altar will make you feel like you’ve been taken back to the Tudor period.
Other rooms include the Guard Room, the Great Hall, State Drawing Room, Thomas Cranmer’s Study (the archbishop who served King Henry VIII), the Fig Tree, the Lollard’s Prison, and the Atrium. Combined, they use these rooms for events and functions as well as the many gifts given to the many Archbishops.
Osterley Park & House
Osterley Park and House is part of the National Trust. The National Trust aims to maintain and develop English parks, gardens, and historic places as well as keeping wildlife and nature pure.
Osterley House country estate was built in the Tudor and Georgian periods by Robert Adam. The best part of your visit is Osterley Park that surrounds the House. Established in urban Hounslow, the Park and House are a contrast to the hustle and bustle of urban London. It’s as if you’ve stepped into the countryside while still being in the city.
Spend some time in the colorful gardens where you see different types of flowers including roses, lemon trees, and beautiful smelling shrubs. Aside from the garden, explore other areas of the park and spend some time with wildlife, including swans, kingfisher, and kestrel birds as well as spotting hedgehogs!
Sir Francis Child, a local businessman, bought Osterley Place in 1713 with his family. As I stepped inside the beautiful grand Entrance Hall, I felt like I asking someone to dance with me in the grand ballroom. I noticed a Tudor fireplace sitting at the end of the Hall which made the room feel even more special.
The off white and pale blue décor cover the walls and ceilings and make the room feel sumptuous. It has a Greek and Roman influence and is currently used for dinners and parties.
The Eating Room consists of detailed crème patterned décor on a pale green wall and ceiling. This place was used for Sir Francis Child’s family who would eat most of their meals here.
Other areas worth mentioning include the Long Gallery, the Tapestry Room, the State Bedchamber, the Etruscan Dressing Room, and Below Stairs, which is where staff would make sure the house ran smoothly by cooking and cleaning. I could imagine the hustle and bustle that went on in the basement to make sure the Master of the house was happy.
Sutton House & Breaker’s Yard
Other historical places under the National Trust include Sutton House & Breaker’s Yard. Sutton House was built in the Tudor period and is located in Hackney. If you want to get away from the busy streets of Hackney, Sutton House is a quiet retreat. Built in 1535 by Sir Ralph Sadler, sailors, merchants, Victorian schoolmistresses, and Edwardian clergymen lived here throughout the centuries.
Although the style of the house changed throughout the centuries, the Tudor style décor can be seen as the foundation of the House. You will see the gabled roof, the chimney stack, and Tudor brickwork during your tour.
Don’t forget to look at the Tudor style glass windows. The small diamond-shaped panes are attached carefully. They were also difficult and expensive to make and only the rich could afford windows with this much detail.
Take note of the colorful flowers blossoming in the spring and summer seasons. During Christmas, the House is surrounded by a fig tree, Christmas lights, and candles. You feel like you are stepping back into the Tudor period during Christmas.
As for Breaker’s Yard, admire the many wildlife that comes to the garden, from bees, butterflies, and colorful flowers. Why not relax, read a book, and watch people go by to get away for a bit?
Queen Charlotte’s Cottage
Queen Charlotte’s Cottage is situated in Kew Gardens, South East London, and was built in the Georgian period.
Queen Charlotte was the wife of George III and the queen of Great Britain and Ireland in 1761. Queen Charlotte, a German national who didn’t speak a word of English until she married George III, was an avid botanist and spent a lot of time in Kew Gardens, which wouldn’t be what they are now if it wasn’t for her influence.
During the 18th Century, the royal family used the cottage for walks in the garden and relaxation. The highlights of your tour include visiting the princesses’ bedrooms and Queen Charlotte’s bedroom, where she died from pneumonia in 1818.
To get in Kew Gardens, you must pay an admissions ticket; £9 per adult and £3 per child ages between 3 – 15. The Cottage is included in the ticket and there are also student, senior and group tickets too. While in Kew Gardens, take photos of the many colorful flowers and visit the Pagoda where you can go up the 253 steps and see the view of London (not included with the admissions ticket).
Kensington Palace is situated in Kensington Gardens, one of eight royal parks in London. Throughout 1000 years of history, the parks were used by the royal family for hunting and recreational purposes. They include Hyde Park, Kensington Palace, Greenwich Park, Bushy Park, Richmond Park, Regent’s Park, the Green Park, and St. James’ Park. Presently, they are open to the public to enjoy wildlife, nature, and to relax.
Kensington Palace was the home of several royal families including Princess Diana of Wales and Queen Victoria. Now a museum, it stores many outfits worn by Princess Diana and Queen Victoria while they were on their state visits and functions.
You will see the room where Queen Victoria was born and grew up, the beautiful golden King’s and Queen’s State Apartments. You will also learn about what living as a royal family was like. Spend some time in the garden where you’ll meet Egyptian geese, swans, and many species of birds!
The area that intrigued me the most was the Grand Staircase. Around the walls, the many paintings depict 18th Century life in the King’s court. As I got up the stairs, I felt I was in court with them. Make sure to visit the King’s Gallery where you’ll see many large gold-framed paintings on red wallpaper. The room hasn’t changed much since King George I renovated it in 1725!
Churchill War Rooms
Unlike other free museums and galleries, you have to pay admission to enter the Churchill War Museum, but it’s worth it!
Winston Churchill was a British politician, army officer, and a writer during World War II. The Churchill War Rooms is a part of the Imperial War Museums which include the HMS Belfast naval ship museum, situated near Tower Bridge. IWM North and IWM Duxford are both in Manchester and Duxford.
In this museum, you will learn a lot about Churchill’s childhood and his military career. During his career, his staff worked overtime at the Cabinet War Room and you will read and hear stories from the people that worked with him; what it was like working the Cabinet War Rooms and working with Churchill himself.
The Cabinet War Rooms haven’t changed since the Second World War and once you’re there, it’s as if you’re watching the ghost of workers performing their duties. In my head, I imagined the echoes of people talking amongst each other and the footsteps they took as I walked through the labyrinth of corridors.
Spend at least ninety minutes here if you’re interested in World War II.
Windsor Castle is situated outside of Central London and a good place to visit for a day trip outside of London. With over 900 years of history, it is still the home of the modern royal family. William the Conqueror founded Windsor Castle in the 11th century.
Windsor Castle has survived many battles including the First Baron’s War in the 13th Century and the English Civil War in the 17th Century. The Castle also survived the 1992 fire and Luftwaffe bombing campaigns in the Second World War.
You can spend a whole day in Windsor Castle, getting lost in many of the lavish 15th through 19th-century rooms. If you don’t have anything else to do, just spend your time wandering around the castle grounds!
The highlight of your tour is visiting the many 19th century State Apartments. There are two routes towards the State Rooms and they are the ceremonial route and the historic route.
The ceremonial route consists of the Grand Reception Room with crystal chandeliers. Originally used as a ballroom, the room is covered in gold and is complemented with red furniture. There are four gigantic paintings depicting life in the 19th century here.
The historical route consists of the Semi-State Rooms created for George IV. Like the Grand Reception Room, a crystal chandelier hangs in the middle of the room. It also has golden intricate patterns on the white door and ceiling. There are portraits of aristocrats around the room on red wallpaper and red 19th Century furniture.
Other highlights to see include the Changing of the Guards, St. George’s Chapel (where Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were married), the many treasures of the castle, and the free 30-minute Precinct tour which discusses the 1000 years of the castle’s history as a fortress and palace. Windsor Castle is a must for your trip to London!
Hi, I’m Annisa. I’m an Indonesian national living in London. I’ve been living here since 1991. My family and I packed our bags to pursue a better way of living. My father had a dream for us to experience London’s many possibilities, and we have!
Every time you visit London, there’s always something new to see and do and it’s impossible to see everything in a short amount of time, even if you have been here for weeks! For more, check out more London travel tips at London Travellers.
5 Things to Pack for Your Trip to England
If you’re headed to London, I have an entire packing list that goes over exactly what to bring to with you. However, here are five items you don’t want to forget!
The Lonely Planet Great Britain guidebook for your trip. It can be kind of a pain to find the major guidebooks once you land, or you’ll find them overpriced. I always like to pick mine up ahead of time.
An Unlocked Cell Phone so that you can use a British sim card while here to help navigate public transportation.
Backup Charging Bank for your cell phone since you’ll be using it as a camera, GPS, and general travel genie.
A Camera since London is super photogenic. I use a mix of my Nikon D810 and my Samsung8 smartphone these days.
A Great Day Bag so you can carry what you need with you (like your camera, snacks, water, sunscreen, cash, etc). My current favorite is the Pacsafe Citysafe, which is especially great for cities like London because it has many anti-theft features designed to deter pickpockets. It also transitions to a night bag more easily and won’t embarrass you if you go to dinner directly after sightseeing all day.
More London Travel Resources
If you’re interested in visiting UNESCO sites and historic places around London, check out my posts on How to Visit the Tower of London, How to Visit Westminster Abbey, and How to Visit Westminster Abbey.
Love to listen while you plan your travels? I have episodes about London on both of my podcasts. You can check my podcast episode about the Roman Baths, The History of Windsor Castle, and Banqueting House.
You can also listen to my travel podcast episode about London. Plus here are all the best travel podcasts I use to plan my trips.
Don’t Forget About Travel Insurance!
Before you leave for London make sure you have a valid Travel Insurance Policy because accidents happen on the road. I pay for World Nomads, and I happily recommend them. It’s especially important to get travel insurance if you’ll be hanging out in cities like London where tourists can easily become the targets of pickpockets.
I have been a paying customer of World Nomads for travel insurance for three years, and I happily recommend them. If you get sick, injured, or have your stuff stolen, you’ll be happy to have the ability to pay for your medical bills or replace what’s stolen or broken.
2 thoughts on “23 Thrilling London Historical Sites for History Lovers to Explore”
London is one of my absolute favorites! I have been visiting ever so often, and can’t wait to go back again!
Have a great trip! London is fantastic!